Critics Are Mostly Enchanted by Live-Action ‘Beauty and the Beast': ‘Disney Magic’

Film starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 78 percent

Last Updated: March 3, 2017 @ 11:30 AM

Reviews are in for Disney’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast,” and the majority of critics are enchanted by the movie starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

“Here’s some Disney magic for you: The new ‘Beauty and the Beast’ actually improves upon the animated classic. Embracing its musical theater nature and adding depth to a familiar narrative, the live-action remake is a real Beauty,” wrote USA Today’s Brian Truitt.

“Ready to proclaim Disney’s live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ this year’s best new old musical? Be our guest,” New York Daily News critic Stephen Whitty wrote.

The film’s Rotten Tomatoes score is currently at 78 percent with 21 positive reviews and six bad ones (but that score continues to change as new reviews are added before the movie’s release on March 17).

As of now, its score is relatively low compared to Disney’s other live-action remakes. “Cinderella” eventually settled into 83 percent on RT and “The Jungle Book” got a resounding 95 percent.

Critics seem to agree on Emma Watson’s performance as Belle. Vulture’s Emily Yoshida wrote, “Emma Watson is the real headliner here, and physically couldn’t have been more perfectly cast.” TheWrap’s film critic Dan Callahan added that Dan Stevens’ performance as the Beast and Ewan McGregor’s Lumiere are also spectacular.

“Most impressive of these voice actors is Ewan McGregor, who uses his soaring tenor to fine effect on ‘Be Our Guest,'” he wrote. “This is the one number in Condon’s ‘Beauty and the Beast” that feels visually impressive and even spectacular, and it suggests that McGregor would have made a far more apt Gaston himself.”

“Beauty and the Beast” stars Stevens, Watson, Luke Evans and Josh Gad and was directed by Bill Condon.

The original film was one of the most successful movies in Disney history. It became the first animated movie to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, and remains the only one to do so prior to the Academy expanding the Best Picture nominee list in 2010.

“Beauty and the Beast” opens in theaters on March 17.

See 9 review excerpts here to get a sense for what critics are saying:

Stephen Whitty, New York Daily News: 

“Ready to proclaim Disney’s live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ this year’s best new old musical? Be our guest. In a nice bit of sorcery, Disney’s taken their 1991 animated classic — and their 1993 Broadway hit — and combined them into a groundbreaking delight, anchored by a breakthrough performance by Emma Watson.”

Nick De Semlyen, Empire Online

“Happily, gone wrong it has not. Under the stewardship of Bill Condon, a director well-used to intense fans after his experiences making two ‘Twilight’ films, the team behind this mega-money extravaganza rarely put a foot wrong. Following the blueprint laid out for it by its predecessor faithfully but not slavishly, it hits all the big notes, while adding a few new melodies of its own. There are a few minor fumbles, but you’re likely to walk away with a lightened step, a broad smile and at least one song-worm in your ear.”

A. O. Scott, New York Times

“To quote a lyric from one of the songs in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘there may be something there that wasn’t there before.’ The familiar elements are all in place, of course. It’s ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ for goodness’ sake: a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme and all that. And there are inspired flights of nostalgia as well, visual evocations of the predigital glory of Busby Berkeley, Ray Harryhausen and other masters of fantastical craft. But this live-action/digital hybrid, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles, is more than a flesh-and-blood (and prosthetic fur-and-horns) revival of the 26-year-old cartoon, and more than a dutiful trip back to the pop-culture fairy-tale well. Its classicism feels unforced and fresh. Its romance neither winks nor panders. It looks good, moves gracefully and leaves a clean and invigorating aftertaste. I almost didn’t recognize the flavor: I think the name for it is joy.”

Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Here’s some Disney magic for you: The new ‘Beauty and the Beast’ actually improves upon the animated classic. Embracing its musical theater nature and adding depth to a familiar narrative, the live-action remake is a real Beauty. The film directed by Bill Condon (‘Dreamgirls’) skews long — a full 45 minutes longer than the 1991 cartoon — but uses that time to unleash fresh new songs, personalize its supporting players and provide reasons for a provincial girl to fall in love with a ferociously grumpy beast.”

Tufaley Ahmed, Newsweek

“Condon’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is visually as sumptuous as [Kenneth] Branagh’s ‘Cinderella,’ paying close attention to ornate castle decorations and beautiful costumes. The CGI is also well-handled; the Beast looks realistic and the special effects used in the musical numbers will mesmerize young moviegoers. ‘A tale as old as time;’ yes. But Disney and Condon have found a way to breathe some new life into it.”

Tim Robey, The Telegraph

“Condon has done virtually everything in his power to make this film work, down to a sugar-rush finale which makes the star cameos pay off like bonus punchlines – or those ‘very special guest’ appearances for 10 seconds at the end of a panto. Gorging all at once on this chocolate box of a picture feels almost greedy, but why stop at once? A large chunk of its audience will be straight back in line for seconds.”

Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International

“A poignant message. A heroine. A love story. Inanimate objects which sing and dance. And some barnstorming musical numbers. It worked in 1991, kick-starting the second golden age of Disney animation. And more than a quarter of a century later, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ enchants again as a swirling blend of live-action story, stage, screen and sheer, rococo-spun fantasy.”

Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“There’s certainly nothing that new about this version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (well, except it isn’t a cartoon anymore), but it’s a good recreation of a classic animated film that should leave most die-hards satisfied. In other words: When you imagine what a live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ movie would be like, the final product is probably a lot like what you think it would be like.”

Julia Alexander, Polygon

“It’s cute, corny and as over-the-top as it can be. There are moments when those traditional ingredients that make up a Disney film can be obnoxious and over-stay their welcome. Still, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a charming movie that uses the talents of its lead actors to successfully recreate and redesign one of its classic stories.”